Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If You're Against This, You Must Be For Childhood Blindness

The anti-science zealots on the left harangue against so-called Frankenfoods with no evidence of harm whatsoever.  Their campaign against Golden Rice has meant that children all over the developing world continue to go blind because of Vitamin A deficiency.  Let me restate that:  the unfounded complaints of weirdos cause children to continue to go blind.

In this post I linked to a story about a worrisome banana plant virus.

What do those two paragraphs above have in common?  This:
Vitamin A deficiency kills hundreds of thousands of children worldwide; hundreds of thousands more go blind, says a researcher. That's why his team has developed a "super banana" it aims to grow in Uganda by 2020. Cooking bananas are an East African staple, so Prof. James Dale and his team in Australia genetically engineered a version of the food that's packed with alpha and beta carotene. The body converts the two into vitamin A, AFP reports. The super bananas are now being sent to the US for their first human trials, which will take six weeks and are backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Time notes; details of the bananas' impact on vitamin A levels are expected to be released by year-end.

"We know our science will work," Dale says. If the bananas get the green light in Uganda, the micronutrient-enriched crops could next be grown in Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania. One big difference between regular bananas and the super variety: The edible part of the latter is more orange than what we're used to.
Will unscientific complaints stop these bananas, too?  Will these bananas be able to resist the virus?  So many important questions.


Mike Thiac said...

These are the same morons who banned DDT...enough said!

allen (in Michigan) said...

So best case it'll take another six years before poor, African farmers get access to these things? That sucks.

maxutils said...

How long have we been eating genetically modified corn? Is it ... forever? And the only downside is that it's really hard to find corn that isn't overly sweet...

Auntie Ann said...

Going blind is one of the minor effects of Vitamin A deficiency.

"It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive. "

Half a million could be going blind, but two million are dying! And that's not from some wacko, pro-corporate shill for Monsanto. That's from the New York Times.

I got in an argument (one-sided, since she never bothered to respond to me) with our kid's 6th grade science teacher. I compiled all sorts of links about GMO's and actual science for her, which I also posted to my blog: GMO's. She continued to beat the anti-GMO drum in class for the last few weeks of the year. As far as I know, all the other kids in the class were well on their way to being fully indoctrinated--they had no doubts or questions.

The results of such indoctrination was illustrated to be in a second argument I had a week or two later. This time with a rising high school senior--who should have learned to make a coherent argument by now. He ignored all my links to journal articles while linking to advocacy websites and calling me a stupid, Fox-watching shill. He drew a line half-way through the argument and said he was done, since I was obviously so stupid and ignorant. After I kept going and refused to stop, he got made and I responded yet again with this:

17 Year Old: If I said the debate is over, and I don't care anymore, and I told you to please stop commenting, why would you comment 13 more times?

Me: Why? Perhaps to help you learn how to make an argument that might actually have a chance of convincing someone.

Because to actually make an argument takes more than Googling, especially when the topic is science, and especially when the topic is controversial. If all you do is Google and read the first few pages that pull up, you are likely to pull up pages of advocacy (as you did here) and not actual science. Google puts the most *popular* links at the top, not the most accurate.

You can still Google, but check out Google Scholar instead of the general site. Scholar pulls from published journal articles, and not from random webpages.

Also, I hope you've learned to do your own research and not rely on others. Don't even rely on the links we've posted. Go read the articles yourself and stop letting other people interpret them for you! Next time you try to show someone evidence, take the time to click through the links before you post, and actually read the original source materials. The actual sources often do not say what people say they say.

Importantly, when discussing science, unless you are quoting actual published peer-reviewed journal articles (from reputable journals--there are more fly-by-night ones now than there used to be back when they were all put out on paper), your argument is going to be weak. That's what we did above. You did not.

[...] Finally, I hope you've learned not to assume that you are the one with all the knowledge and the answers and to maybe let a little doubt and uncertainty creep in once in a while.


I don't know whether he woke up in the end or not, but his indoctrination seemed fairly complete, evidence be damned. In light of that argument with him, I think we're doomed as a society.