shiva

What Shiva can Teach us about Science Communication

We can learn a lot about people from not just what they say, but how they choose to say it.  Communication scholars claim that something like 75% of meaning comes from non-verbal cues. Non-verbal cues are not just gestures, they come from our rate, volume, proximity and our willingness to absorb feedback.  Many suggest that the non-verbals communicate true intention, and that these signals may not always match the words. When we critically evaluate the non-verbal performance of Dr.Vandana Shiva on China’s CCTV, (beginning at 23:00 min) we learn a lot about the person. This video is a MUST WATCH.  Portrayed by her supporters as a kind-hearted and gentle defender of the downtrodden and the environment, we see her true colors. It is not just her words, but the way she chooses to say them. We can analyze her communication style and rhetoric and draw some important conclusions.

arctic apple vs regular crop

A Misplaced Concern about an Apple

As a consumer and as an agricultural scientist, I’m looking forward to the introduction of the Arctic® apple. It is possibly nearing approval by regulators in the US and Canada which could mean that supplies might finally be available in a few more years.  These apples could give consumers the possibility of buying apples that maintain their flavor, appearance and vitamin content after cutting, and which can also be used to make beautiful dried apple slices without the need for sulfites (something that can be a problem for some people).  This is an excellent example of how plant biotechnology can provide direct consumer benefits. The Arctic® apple “works” through a mechanism called “RNAi.” That is a way to “turn off” a gene – in this case the genes for the enzymes that cause apples to brown when cut.  RNAi is a common, natural means of genetic regulation in plants, animals,

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A feminist mother and science advocate’s response to Vani Hari, the “Food Babe”

Originally published on the Genetic Literacy Project. Vani Hari, better known as “Food Babe,” is a self-proclaimed investigator of food and consumer advocate. Yet, some of her so-called investigations have been based in little to no evidence, while most of the rest of her claims are outright drivel. She has made her mark in an all-too-easy exploitation of public fear of the “unnatural,” distrust of establishment and love for fads. As expected, her opposition has been growing. Scientists and skeptics have begun criticizing Hari’s assertions. Within the last several months, the frequency of articles, blog posts and social media opposition has skyrocketed. I’m a mother and science writer, and I’ve been critical of Hari’s work over the last several months. I am not a scientist by the traditional definition. I don’t have a PhD., nor have I authored peer-reviewed research publications. Still, I have a unique perspective afforded by the intersection

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The day I unwittingly became a pro-science activist

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

consumerreports

Consumer Reports publishes unscientific analysis

Grandpa Folta liked Consumer Reports, the magazine that would help him find maximum value in his oil filters and bacon bits. They have been recognized for a long time as an objective source of critical side-by-side analysis of consumer goods, and I’ve made decisions based on their recommendations. The magazine is still popular, and is well known for its independent evaluation of consumer goods, helping the consumer make better buying decisions. My friend Chris alerted me to a little Consumer Credulity. The latest version shows that even an source claiming objective and technically sound analysis, is not immune from the bias of bad information.  A recent article on Milk Alternatives: Should You Sip or Skip provides a short evaluation of the various consumer milk substitutes, stuff like coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk and other dairy alternatives.