I’ve never rubbed elbows with a celebrity, but I had my first opportunity to do so this weekend and, let me just say, it didn’t feel so good.
On Sunday morning, Fran Drescher, mostly known for her role on The Nanny, tweeted about the latest claimed danger of biotechnology. Taking advantage of an opportunity to correct some misinformation, I reached out to her. Unfortunately, I was not aware that Fran was an adamant and outspoken critic of GMOs and doesn’t really care about whether she’s right or not!
@frandrescher Hi Fran! My family are farmers & I would love to discuss this topic further using accurate & reliable science!
— Farmers Daughter (@farmdaughterusa) July 19, 2015
After it was suggested Fran speak with some real farmers about this topic, she took the opportunity to attack them by accusing Ask the Farmers of being a front group for Monsanto. (For the record, Ask the Farmers is not a front group for Monsanto; our membership includes some organic and non-GMO farmers, too.)
So, what was Fran driveling on about? Turns out her husband, V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai, had released a new “study” that supposedly demonstrates that GMO soybeans accumulate formaldehyde. Huh? Fran’s concern had lead her to use her celebrity to help spread awareness of this issue.
Kevin Folta, a professor and researcher at the University of Florida, has stepped up to the plate and written a quick piece summarily exposing this “study” for the garbage that it really is. As he lays out in his article, this “study” has some serious reliability problems. The “study” is not even an actual study though. Rather, the conclusion was based off of a computer system developed to run statistics of already existing data, including some other dubious studies. Folta explains:
How does systems biology work? It is a computational approach where a series of inputs, usually data from published work that are matched in silico to generate new hypotheses. It is a way to make predictions based on integrating existing data, and then statistically deriving a likelihood that the predictions may be correct. The predictions can then be tested and the systems approach validated.
The problem is bad data in, bad data out.
Normally, when a computer program like this generates a conclusion that doesn’t make any sense, the scientist would stop and go back to work making it accurate. Unfortunately, when anti-GMO activists are trying to get pre-determined conclusions, they don’t really care if the computer program is bad. Instead, they take the bad data and run with it. Folta also points out there are lots of other things wrong with this “study” and its conclusions (as if its basic premise isn’t flawed enough; right?). We should also note that Fran is an outspoken critic of biotechnology and her hubby started the International Center for Integrative Systems. This Center, much like other activist organizations, promotes bad science and misinformation. Its website is literally littered with anti-GMO propaganda.
Does anyone else think that makes hubby performing these “studies” a conflict of interest? Ironic that, according to activists, Monsanto cannot conduct reliable or accurate scientific studies, even when those studies are based on scientifically reliable procedures, because they will be biased. Yet, when an activist publishes a “study,” in a questionable journal with questionable techniques, and doubtful conclusions, that’s perfectly acceptable. In any case, we have yet another example of a celebrity taking advantage of their position and notoriety to spew bad information about GMOs.
In the end, Fran made her agenda known:
— Fran Drescher (@frandrescher) July 19, 2015