Category Archives: Fracking

Stuff on fracking , mostly in Lancashire

Is Christian Aid’s push for Divestment undermining the poor?

Over the last 10 years the ultimate Green concern of many Christians is Climate Change, which for many means Divestment from fossil fuels and the adoption of “clean” renewable energy. This has become the official stance of groups like Christian Aid, Tear Fund and Cafod, along with Christian Green groups, like a Rocha, Green Christian, with John Ray  Initiative sitting uncomfortably on the (barbed wire) fence. Within the mainstream churches if you do not agree with this consensus, you are clearly not green!! This is despite the majority not buying into it.

Apart from the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, who has a Ph. D. in chemistry, few challenge this consensus and thus it has become the default position of the churches, with frequent calls for divestment and a Bigswitch to “clean” energy.

This article in the Church Times  10 August 2017 by Joe Ware of Christian Aid is both strident and inaccurate, and seems to think the main solutions to environmental issues are Divestment and taking part in the Big Switch to “renewable” energy. One gets the impression nothing else really matters.

Until about 1990 care for the environment was hardly mentioned in the churches of the UK.  This was not because of a desire only to save souls or following the daft ideas of Dispensationalism as Joe Ware claims. More socially minded Christians were concerned about Apartheid, the inner city and urban issues and racialism. In the 70s Bishop Hugh Montefiore was one of the few who waved a green flag, but to speak of a divide between the church and environmentalism due to Dispensationalism is simply wrong. Very few believed in Dispensationalism and the over-riding view on the environment was simply apathy, as I found in 1982 when I tried to get Liverpool Diocese Board of Social responsibility to consider environmental issues. I was ignored and my request was not even minuted. I rejoiced when in the 90s churches began to go green. My joy is now muted as the focus has been narrowed down to Divestment and “clean” energy, as if any energy is clean.

Before 1990 the environment simply did not figure. Now it is foremost and many green christians are pushing for divestment from fossil fuels and are strongly opposed to fracking, so that the only thing that matters is fighting Climate Change, and that from an extreme perspective. Ware wrote favorably of McKibben, who has pushed for Divestment and anti-fracking for many years, but his enthusiasm is not tempered with accuracy or realism. Renewable energy makes up less than 10 per cent of total energy usage today and thus fossil fuels and nuclear must be used to make up the deficit and both will continue to be used for at least half a century. At best Divestment is simply virtue signalling. Apart from ideological greens, all informed commentators on energy argue that fossil fuels, preferably gas (thus fracking) must be used in the greenest way possible. This includes gurus those like Ware look to.  Thus we should read  the late Sir David Mackay, Dieter Helm, Lord Deben/John Gummer, Mark Lynas, the late Stephen Tindale (formerly of Greenpeace) and others. All accept the pressing issue of Climate Change, but differ on how it needs to be tackled. However the silent majority in the churches seem to be letting this happen, though many do not buy into this strong green agenda.

The result of the single-minded focus on Climate Change means that other issues are almost ignored (unless they can be blamed on Climate Change. In fact to say it is caused by Climate Change is often seen as a full explanation!).

Other issues in the environment are manifold.

Apart from blaming flooding on Climate Change, very little is said on reducing flooding, whether tree planting, peat restoration, or minor modifications in towns e.g. criticising hard surfacing front gardens.

My own diocesan environment group seems to ignore these but have been very forward on fracking, producing three (inaccurate) papers on the subject.

It would not be unfair to say  that  Christian Aid et al adopt much of “left-wing Junk science” and are not only anti-fracking but also anti-GMO, though they are more more muted than they were. Consider this statement;

Doubt about GM’s ability to
increase yields is not the only worry
about its use. The IAASTD warned
that GMOs in the human foodsupply
chain in the form of animal p93
feed ‘might threaten human health’.
GM’s potential environmental
impact is also a cause for concern,
with the evidence again patchy. p93-4

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/hungry-for-justice.pdf

It is sad for an august organisation siding with negative critiques of GMO. Here is a critique of Christian Aid going back to 2003 http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/christian_aid.html

More recently it has taken to opposing fracking.   http://www.christianaid.org.uk/ActNow/blog/2013/scc-fracking-action-drilling-fossil-fuels.aspx

and

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/The-Big-Shift-QandA-august-2015.pdf

Does Christian Aid support fracking?
Christian Aid opposes fracking because shale gas is a fossil fuel and will therefore
exacerbate global climate change. Research conducted by the International Energy Agency shows that, whilst gas is a lower carbon fossil fuel than coal, exploiting the world’s reserves of unconventional gas, such as shale gas, could lead to a global temperature rise of 3.5°C.
This is far higher than the 2° rise that the UK and other developed countries has said is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.Investing in shale gas exploration could also reduce the finance available to invest in renewable energy.

 

This statement completely ignores the difference between fossil fuels; Coal is the worst with the highest CO2 emissions (and other nasties, mostly particulates) ; oil is better  and as we now know petrol is better than diesel. Gas is the cleanest with the least CO2 emissions. (Of course we are told “fracked gas is worse than coal”, but that  only considers the papers by Robert Howarth which are contradicted by the other 05% of papers on the subject.) I can’t comment on his reference to the IEA as he gives no detailed reference. I suggest the operative word is “could”.

By making Divestment and the Big Switch the shibboleths to be a Green Christian, Joe Ware and others have introduced a new fundamentalism where Penal substitution and biblical inerrancy are replaced with Divestment and anti-fracking, and if you do not agree you are not welcome in this green fundamentalism. Sadly other  important green issues are often left to one side due to the adherence to a narrow agenda.

It is sad that Christian Aid is adopting such a narrow agenda as they will prevent many
countries from developing their own (allegedly dirty) energy supplies. Thus the potential
oil and gas in the Western Rift of Uganda could well make Uganda energy sufficient thus
limiting deforestation by replacing would burning with gas. If not exactly clean, it would
be cleaner. To me, having worked in that area as an exploration geologist (for metals)
that would be a great improvement reducing deforestation and smoky huts.
To follow Joe Ware will mean that we will give with one hand and take away with the
other. If this policy is applied throughout the world, many people will be denied access to
energy.
I hope we can follow wisdom and realism and give with both hands.

 

Here is Joe Ware’s article in the Church Times, interspersed with my comments.

Church and tree-huggers, unite!

11 AUGUST 2017

 

The frost between the Church and environmentalists is thawing, says Joe Ware

ALAMY

Protesting: church leaders on 5 December 2009, including the Archbishop of Canterbury at that time, Dr Rowan Williams, wear blue gloves as part of a wave of support at Stop Climate Chaos’s The Wave event, in London

TEN years ago — long before the historic UN Paris agreement on climate change (News, 14 December 2015), and a full year before Barack Obama became President of the United States — the UK’s Environment Agency asked 25 leading environmentalists which five things needed to happen.

Of the top 50 suggestions, second on the list, behind improving energy efficiency, was that religious leaders should make the environment a priority for their followers. In a review of the list, The Guardian’s Alison Benjamin was baffled by the part that these green visionaries saw faith as playing: “I fail to understand how religious leaders’ making the planet their priority will make a sufficient difference to warrant its ranking at two,” she wrote.

No doubt, Church Times readers are more aware that we in the UK live in an oddly secular bubble: for most people in the world, from Brazilian Roman Catholics to Bangladeshi Muslims, faith plays a key part in their lives.

What these environmental champions had identified was the frosty relationship between the environment movement and religion or, more specifically, the Church. The perceived divide between a gang of godless tree-huggers, on the one side, and an institution that cares only about saving souls at the expense of ecological destruction, on the other,

I would love to know when this frosty situation was. In the 70s and 80s few in the churches were bothered. The concern of many was not for the environment but for Race relations and apartheid and the problems of inner cities. This social gospel was at the heart of many Christians’ understanding of the gospel in practice. It was not tree-huggers vs soul savers.

 

caused a damaging impasse in which both creation care and evangelism suffer.

The good news is that this cold war is beginning to thaw.

This misses so many thing. Few before the mid-80s emphasised the environment and they were lone voices and often got nowhere.

In fact, both groups share much common ground, which has huge potential for the Kingdom of God. Like the arrival of Aslan in Narnia’s perpetual winter — the invention of a Christian nature-lover, C. S. Lewis — spring is coming.

 

THE divide between the Church and the environmental movement is a recent one. It arose in the 1970s through the influence of dispensationalist theology, which often taught that at Jesus’s return the earth would be burnt up, and was therefore dispensable,

This is baseless. Christians in the 70s were little concerned about the environment. Yes, some Evangelicals followed Lindsell The Late Great Planet Earth, but it had little or no effect in the wider church. The environment was largely ignored as the focus was on apartheid, Inner city etc.

 

despite the biblical mandate to care for creation and its inhabitants.

Most read Gen 1 vs22 as dominion (good or bad) rather than creation care. This biblical mandate (however interpreted) only came to the fore in about 1990

The dualist second-century heresy of Gnosticism also played a part. Although rejected by the Church, this unbiblical belief that physical matter is evil and only the spiritual is important remains influential, and implies a disregard of the natural world.

This is very sweeping and  was never held by Christians

What is often forgotten is that the modern environmental movement owes its history to Christians.

There was a broad moving towards environmentalism in the 19th century and not only among Christians. One such was Darwin.

The Scottish Presbyterian John Muir, who had memorised the New Testament by the age of 11, established the world’s first National Park in Yosemite, California.

 

John Muir was a great pioneer but reading his biography scarcely shows that Christianity figured large for him as he was more in awe of nature than God.

It was Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, with Octavia Hill, a devout churchgoer, and Sir Robert Hunter, a broad-church Anglican, who founded the Nation­al Trust in 1895 to con­serve the Lake Dis­trict. As the environ­mental theologian Pro­fes­sor Mi­­chael North­­cott commented, it wasn’t so­­cialists or tree-huggers who started that: it was Anglicans.

This is just picking out two people. There were more and part was the general rejection of killing for collection. An example was Charles Darwin and part may be a realsiation that some species were getting rarer. One forbear was the Rev F O Morris, an ardent anti-evolutionists who founded the Society for the Protection of Birds , which got its Royal Charter in 1904. Northcott’s assertion is dubious.

In fact, Christians and secular environmentalists have a similar world-view.

This is a very limited perspective and makes no mention of God or Jesus Christ.

They both believe that our pristine planetary home has been spoiled by human selfishness (and they are both criticised for being preachy and using guilt to shame people into action).

 

How many believe the earth was never pristine, whatever that means? Many today hold that humans are spoiling the earth, but that is often realism not some starry-eyed departure from a pristine condition.

 

Christians seeking to share the gospel will find that any­one angered by environmental destruction is al­­ready cognisant of human sinfulness and the need for restored rela­tionships throughout creation. A Christianity that empha­sises care for creation will get a ready hearing. As the late evangelist Rob Frost put it: “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the gospel seriously.”

 

THE campaigners who spoke to the Environment Agency in 2007 effect­ively admitted that they needed help from the Church. The good news is that the Church is responding.

This assumes that these are these are the most important environmental responses. As it is, they focus only on divestment and the big Switch

 

In managing their funds, host of de­­nom­ina­­tions and Christian organ­isa­tions have disinvested from fossil fuels, a movement led by the Methodist campaigner Bill McKibben of 350.org (Interview, 25 October 2013).

It would be more accurate to say some. This is simply assuming that all Christians should follow the lead of McKibbin. Perhaps we should be aware that many of his claims are more emotive than factual.

Thousands of churches in the UK have also switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity through the Big Church Switch scheme, under which more than £1 million in electricity shifted away from fossil fuels (News, 2 September 2016Comment, 15 April 2016).

Is the Big Switch a good idea? It depends on the supposed distinction of clean and dirty erenrgy and makes no distinction between coal (dirty), oil (cleaner) and gas (cleanest fossil fuel) and the fact that “clean” energies aint clean. further it ignores the inaccurate sales talk of some firms eg Ecotricity who blythely claim that they can provide all the gas the UK needs from grass grown for biodigesters. Most experts reckon that biogas like this will top out at 10% – unless we put all National Parks down to grass :). £1million in electricity is minimal as it represents less than 2000 households. What must be asked is whether it is possible to move ALL customers over to renewables. The answer is simply NO, as Sir david Mackay argued in No Hot Air, and will remain NO until at least to the end of century. At best this is virtue signalling and little more than kidding oneself.

 

And, of course, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, which put care for our common home at the heart of RC teaching, and ignited a wave of interest in climate change before the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 (News, 26 June 2015). After President Trump’s decision to withdraw from this agreement, a stand by the Church has never been more needed.

The Church has a crucial part to play in helping to accelerate the world’s much-needed low-carbon transition. If it can pull it off, and unite all those that care for God’s creation, then both heaven and earth will be able to rejoice.

The implication is that those who do not accept his arguments, which are shaky to say the least, do not care for God’s creation. That is unjust in the extreme and rather cultic in the way it excludes those Christians who do not agree. It is simply a Green Fundamentalism. Rather than harnessing the whole church’s resources this is simply dividing Christians and will result in less being done.

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid. He is on Twitter at @wareisjoe.

The Church Times Green Church Awards – Buildings

Assam Earthquake 15th August 1950

As we mark the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan, we would also remember that the Assamese did not have a good day on the 15th August.

During the night a massive Mag 8.6 earthquake struck the area, with its epicentre just inside Tibet.That makes it far bigger than the Mag 7.8 in Nepal in 2015. However the damage or loss of life, though considerable, were far less as the area was less densely populated.

My own interest is that we were living in Jorhat on the tea plantations of Assam at the time and the quake became part of family history. We lived in a bungalow, which was built on stilts for protection against earthquakes and had about ten servants as was the norm.

So what happened?

The bungalow on stilts began to sway. Wardrobes fell over, but didn’t hit anyone.

The car, an american Studebaker, rolled out off the garage onto the lawn.

My parents took my brother and I to spend the night in the car.

In Jorhat there was much damage, but also poetic justice. There were acute food shortages and grain sellers kept their grain hoping to get higher prices. However the quake collapsed many of the warehouses and then the price dropped. Locals imply went in and took what they wanted.

The other personal detail concerns a friend of my parents, Frank Kingdom Ward, a botanist and plant-collector. He was known to be in the vicinity of the epicentre and was actually sleeping on top of it. nothing was heard of him for three months when he re-appeared. On 16th August he had intended to botanise in a Himalayan valley, but that was partly filled in with landslides. He slowly made his way out and returned to safety.

For further details read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1950_Assam%E2%80%93Tibet_earthquake

Not surprisingly that is the biggest quake I’ve been in. When I was working at Kilembe mines as a geologist in the Ruwenzori Mountains of the Western Rift Valley smaller quakes were common. we often had Mag 3 to 5 quakes and as they did no damage we almost ignored. The most memorable one was during a church service at All Saints Church, Kilembe. Halfway through a hymn a quake struck and the whole church (wooden) shook violently. The organist missed a note and carried on. Nobody mentioned afterwards.

Two years earlier a Mag 6.5 hit the northern Ruwenzori and a dozen were killed, including the son of a vicar Rev Mikairi Nturanke, who I later knew well and went to a harvest service in his church. I preached my first sermon there!

Since then I’ve felt a few quakes in Britain but none more than 5.  the biggest caused a little damage but no injuries.

Living in Lancashire now, we often have unfelt Mag2s and occasionally a bit more but I have never felt any.

This biggest were those of Preece Hall fracking in 2011 being up to Mag 1.5 and Mag 2.3 . They were hardly felt and did no damage , despite dubious claims. The biggest damage was to the minds of certain people who read about them later and wrote creatively about them.

 

Many don’t grasp the Magnitude scale. I am rather simplifying and seismologists might like greater precision, but this gives the picture.

From this you will see that the fracking quakes of Lancashire were no more than lightning bolt, that the Mag 8.6 in Assam  was far greater than the explosion of Mt St Helens and about the same as Krakatoa.

Even the quakes, due to injection into wells,  of Oklahoma which are mostly about 3 to 4 are trivial compare to those of the 2004 tsunami, Nepal 2015 and Assam 1950

 

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More on moneygrubbing by Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth are great at presenting emotional arguments for their various green concerns  – from Bees to Fracking.

Here Nick Grealy argues it is all a money-making ploy by FoE. (Yes, I nicked his blog, which though two years old is still relevant)

I cannot understand why any still support them

SHALE OPPONENTS: WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

http://www.reimaginegas.com/?p=2470

mothers

I’ve always wondered why Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are against shale gas, but I never thought them cynical. But recently, I’m starting to think that they, and many of the  householders they ally themselves with, aren’t interested in the big picture of climate change, but spare change. They could well be only in it for the money.

For example, Dr Paul Stevens of Chatham House, is often quoted approvingly by FoE, this being only one of several examples on the FoE website.

Exploitation of shale gas in the UK could have a major impact on the investment in renewable energy needed to decarbonize the energy sector. Energy expert Professor Paul Stevens of Chatham House has written that “There is a real fear among many analysts that shale gas may substitute not for coal but for renewables” and that “the anticipation of cheap natural gas could inhibit investment in renewables. But again, if the revolution fails to deliver a lot of cheap gas, by the time this is realized it could well be too late to revert to a solution to climate change based upon renewables”

Dr Stevens also appeared at the Canterbury Debate this year, mostly on the anti-side. He’s been quoted here over the years as the search button shows.  After all, he’s predicted doom and gloom about US shale for five years.  He hasn’t been right there obviously, but his way of thinking is very popular in the City of London for example. In a deferential society like the the UK,  only those with credentials can become experts.  Actually being right or wrong doesn’t come into it.

But on June 17 at the World National Oil Companies Congress,  I asked him while I was moderating the session on shale oil and gas worldwide, a little local question:  Why are FoE and Greenpeace so vocal in their opposition to UK shale?

No video exists, but Paul, with no prompting, and far less hesitation replied something like this:

 “After the financial crash, the FoE and Greenpeace lost, like everyone else, a lot of financial support and members. They use shale as a fundraising tool”

Me (somewhat incredulously):  “They’re only in this for the money?”

Stevens:  “Well, they’ve had a surge in membership since Balcombe in 2013”

The FoE don’t have any easily accessible membership numbers to see the trend but they do highlight this within their 2012/13 report.

18,000new supporters as a result of The Bee Cause campaign.

I recall a conversation I had with an FoE fundraiser (she admitted she was paid £6.80 an hour plus commission) in Covent Garden London earlier this year. She admitted that a lot of people complained about the fracking opposition, but during her training was told to divert those conversations to their bee campaign.

I’m happy to support the Bee campaign, but the FoE anti-fracking campaign is mentioned far more often by both them and the media.  Speaking of the media, Here’s an exchange between Roger Harrabin (Chief Environmental Correspondent of the BBC) and I earlier in June:

Roger

Considering the debate in the UK constantly talks about “unstudied”  “controversial” shale gas impact on water supplies, I’m at a loss to understand the editorial decisions as to why the end of a four year US EPA study of water in the US that found no big effect is not worthy of comment

Multiple other stories in US press, the FT has been the only one in Europe that’s covered the story.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/epa-hydraulic-fracking-water-supply-contamination.html?_r=0

 

On 7 Jun 2015, at 15:51, Roger Harrabin – Internet wrote:

I have said virtually the same for the past six years Nick – so it’s not news to me

For others… it has been impossible to get stories on air recently cos of other major news

From: Nick Grealy

Date: Sunday, 7 June 2015 17:44

To: Roger Harrabin

Subject: Re: Fracking Has Not Had Big Effect on Water Supply, E.P.A. Says While Noting Risks – NYTimes.com

Well I’m hoping that this is a sign of the normalisation of “unconventional” shale,  it has rather slipped reassuringly off the radar of the national press.

But at the point of trying to get planning permission it is very hard to undo the damage of years of assertions about how shale is killing the water, when the biggest study ever done gets ignored. Shale opponents can cite a wall of assertions to their local councils and MPS. It would be nice if the refutation was included. Not including peer reviewed multi year studies, while anecdote and innuendo made every front page two years ago, and more importantly, lives on the internet forever. This makes enabling natural gas, and cutting carbon, that much more difficult.

Hope to hear nothing more about shale ever again from mainstream UK press, but doubt that I have…

Thanks anyway for the response Roger, much appreciated

All best

Nick

Finally:

Nick

It’s about house prices

It always is

At least shale unlike wind has not been flattened by the syndrome

There we have it. It’s down to money from the FoE and house prices according to the chief environmental correspondent of the BBC. And all this time I have been rather innocently trying  to point out that natural gas is a solution to the climate question. When it appears that isn’t the real issue after all.

Worth mentioning again, Norton Rose‘s report of last year, which saw a link between proximity and how likely people will sue:

While merely speculation, the rise in such litigation evidenced by the cases discussed may be attributed, at least in part, to increased drilling in proximity to populated areas and heightened media scrutiny of the process.

A discussion about Scottish land rights in the FT recently had a quote which transfers perfectly to Balcombe or Lancashire:

“In small communities, if you kick one person, 20 people start to limp,”

The difference between legitimate protestors and shake down artists, as we see from those in Lancashire who tried to get payouts from Cuadrilla for earthquake damages without ever providing even photos, may not be so far after all.

 

GMOS and science, money, and fake news

 

Some Greens have several shibboleths; usually  pro-organic, anti certain pesticides and glyphosphate and most certainly anti-GMO. (I forgot renewables and fracking)

To focus on GMOs many Green GMOs , like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth oppose them. As do the Green Party.

As a Christian I am concerned that they also are a shibboleth for Christian Greens and groups like Christian Aid. Eco-congregation encourage you to oppose, and as I don’t like people starving to death I don’t do Eco-congregation

GMO EU action

Typical Greenpeace fake news

GMOdeaths

Black humour on the lack of danger of GMOs

NonGMO salt

This sums it all up. But I take non-GMO salt with a pinch of salt.

 

Well, here is a good article on the subject, based on the film Food Evolution

Source: Food Evolution documentary looks at science, money, and fake news around GMOs | PLOS Synthetic Biology Community

Food Evolution aims to take a look at the science underlying the heated rhetoric of the GMO debate. Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson and on-camera experts walk through the major claims and key players. While the documentary tries to communicate the science, it also realizes that the GMO debate isn’t just about the science. It’s about financial interests, fear, and fake news.

Follow the money

The financial interests in GMOs, and GM foods in particular, are enormous. We’re talking about the food supply of billions of people and some of the biggest brand names in the world. On the GMO side sits one of the most hated brands in the world, Monsanto. Food Evolution talks about their history producing harmful pesticides like DDT and the infamous herbicide Agent Orange. Crowds of people rally against the company and at one point even singing “Monsanto is the devil” in a church choir style.

When the documentary looks beyond the United States, we see countries dealing with the fear of GMOs against the real threat of crop shortages. In Uganda, farmers watch as fields of banana trees are lost to the “Ebola of the banana” called banana wilt. We meet the scientist who has to explain how the new GM banana gets its banana wilt resistance from sweet pepper genes and how the government has to act to let the technology move forward. Then one of the farmers has to explain to her that others “think your work is against humanity”. This is the result of anti-GMO messaging being pushed across the globe.

There’s big money to be made from both sides of the GMO debate. Obviously companies like Monsanto have been derided for their profits while selling GM crops. but Food Evolution also gets into the financial incentives of the anti-GMO side. Companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle can build their brand as a healthy and all natural by demonizing the GMO products. Millions are spent on ad campaigns to make things sound healthier, even if there are no studies to back it up. Making GMO foods sound scary gives an advantage to the products with the no GMO sticker on them and more profits to places like Whole Foods.

Fear still wins a lot of arguments

The biggest tool that anti-GMO activists use is fear. Genetically modifying sounds like something from a poorly written supervillain. Inserting more uncertainty into the discussion helps bolster the argument for sticking with traditional agriculture. While scientists want to see multiple studies supporting a claim, activists interviewed in the film were more than willing to stake claims based on one study even if it’s later refuted. The argument goes that any chance that the study is right puts a risk on us. One speaker even instill the fear in parents of giving their children diseases by having fed them GMO or non-organic foods. No parent wants to feel that there’s any chance they may have given their child cancer.

Environmental activist Mark Lynas knows from experience that fear is a more effective tool than facts. He used to be an anti-GMO activist and is still active in raising awareness about threats from climate change. Upon researching the science he found the anti-GMO position on shaky ground and the climate change position with the scientific consensus. However, his tools for convincing people and motivating change remained largely the same.

“It’s much easier to scare people that it is to reassure them” ~Mark Lynas in Food Evolution

Arguments based on fear can sound convincing regardless of how sound the underlying facts are. Food Evolution pokes holes in many anti-GMO arguments but does find partial truths in some of their arguments. The trick is to take partial truths and uncertainty and dress them up as science. On the consumer end, it’s difficult to discern the validity of sources and scientific claims.

GMO science has its own fake news problem

Fake news knows more than most that fear is one of our most motivating factors. Fear sells because it drives ratings on TV and clicks online. Like fake news in other areas, the stories are driven by viral content regardless of its accuracy.

In the GMO debate there’s a narrative that genetically engineering crops brings threats that are totally non-existent in traditional breeding and farming. As anti-GMO activist Zen Honyecutt puts it, “Organic food is the way God made it”. These scenes with Honeycutt and other activists aren’t flattering when juxtaposed with the scientific evidence that humans have been changing crops since the dawn of agriculture. That doesn’t mean they’re not effective in clickbait headlines.

Some information can avoid being completely false while still being misleading. A major chunk of the film is devoted to the back and forth over the use of the herbicide glyphosate, commonly called Roundup. Plants engineered to be resistant to glyphosate–Roundup Ready crops–have lead to the increased use of  glyphosate since it now only kills weeds without harming the crop. This has lead to the increase in glyphosate in our food supply and environment. However, it’s significantly less toxic than the pesticide DDT or other herbicides. In fact, by some standards it’s rated less toxic than caffeine. The argument over GMOs and glyphosate usage hinges on what our alternative is. Are we willing or able to drastically reduce yields without an herbicide? Or do we go back to the more toxic versions? We rarely get to these questions as it’s much harder to settle a common understanding of the facts.

So what do we do now?

The film acknowledges that science and facts aren’t enough to change people’s minds. There are no clear answers here on how to convince the skeptical public. The scene at an Intelligence Squareddebate in which the GMO side wins shows that it may be possible to convince an audience of people with open minds, but it certainly doesn’t show you how to change the mind of those who have already dug in with a position. It might however give you some science-based answers to your GMO questions.

Food Evolution’s distribution is now being handled by Abramorama with a planned New York release of June 23 and select cities after that. See the trailer and more movie info at www.foodevolutionmovie.com.

Aaron Dy is PhD student in Biological Engineering at MIT.

Fracking doesn’t damage your health: an impartial study

Anyone who has heard of fracking will have heard of horror stories of ill-health caused by fracking, summed up by Dame Vivienne Westwood’s shocking doll, supposedly showing the effects of fracking on new-borns.

(NB This is NOT Westwood 🙂 )

frackedbaby

Or the scaremongering of Friends of the Earth, who could not prove their claims. Poor Bosworth got tied in knots on BBC TV.fracking-sand

 

and the grossly misleading signs outside Maple Farm at Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire

dscf6015

Dishonest memes resulting from usual Guardian reporting

1655914_750161931739394_3445642341288021594_n

This nonsense

CaJVbzFWEAgmsif

or these two Nanas afraid of getting cancer

Frackingsmoking

This type of scaremongering is the staple of anti-frackers in Britain and America.

It comes out in the newsletter of the Chartered Inst of Environmental Health in this article by the recently arrested Gina Dowding

Green view: the 10 ways fracking ‘may harm your health’

Gina Dowding

 

http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=13110

2

She includes this picture of close oil wells not realising that gas uses christmas trees not donkeys and wells are not closely packed. Tut tut.

10. Inadequate regulation

 

Her stuff on regulations seems to be nicked from Mike Hill

Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

and so this report from the USA helps to counteract these silly myths.

It points out how weak the actual claims are, and that the increased health risks are either non-existent or minimal.

Quite a few of these pee(r) reviewed papers by academics have had to be withdrawn.

This does science no good at all.

If you want a longer report here is one; http://eidhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Positive-Health-Compendium.pdf

So here we go.

 

 

Environmental Research Group Report Exposes Flaws Of Fracking Health Studies

BY SETH WHITEHEAD JULY 3, 2017

http://eidhealth.org/environmental-research-group-report-exposes-flaws-of-fracking-health-studies/

Ever notice how fracking opponents tend to focus on quantity rather than quality when touting studies claiming shale development harms public health? The following 2015 comments by Food & Water Watch’s Emily Wurth are just one example,

“In 2014 alone there were 154 peer-reviewed studies that came out on the impacts of shale gas development, many of which found serious concerns. So that’s about three studies a week. I mean, those of us who work on this issue thought to ourselves, wow, it seems like there’s a new study on the problems of fracking every other day.”

A comprehensive report released earlier this month by environmental research group Resources for the Future (RFF) — certainly no shill for oil and gas — reveals why anti-fracking activists are focusing on quantity rather than quality. RFF reviewed 32 of the more prominent shale-focused studies on birth outcomes, cancers, asthma, and other health effects, including migraines and hospitalization.

Cumulatively, none of those major categories of studies were deemed “high quality,” while studies on birth defects, hospitalizations and multiple symptoms were cumulatively deemed to be of “low quality,” as the following matrix from the report shows.

 

 

Report authors Alan J. Krupnick and Isabel Echarte of RFF were rather blunt in their critiques of the shale-focused health studies they evaluated. As EID has pointed out many times before, a vast majority of studies released linking fracking to adverse health outcomes fail to prove causation, and the RFF report also notes this prevalent, glaring flaw,

“Overall, we find that the literature does not provide strong evidence regarding specific health impacts and is largely unable to establish mechanisms for any potential health effects.”

“Due to the nature of the data and research methodologies, the studies are unable to assess the mechanisms of any health impacts (i.e., whether a certain impact is caused by air pollution, stress, water pollution, or another burden). Even where good evidence is offered for a link between unconventional oil and gas development and health, the causal factor(s) driving this association are unclear.”

Krupnick and Echarte took particular issue with epidemiological studies, which represented a vast majority of the literature reviewed, including several studies EID has debunked (more on those in a bit). Epidemiological studies are inherently limited in that they can only determine associations rather than proof of causation. Notably, such studies have been employed prominently since a 2012 activist memo was released detailing a strategy to use scientific research to drive opposition to fracking and expand regulations. And although such studies have proven to be an ideal vehicle to generate alarmist headlines despite the continued trend of failing to prove causation, RFF notes that the epidemiological fracking health studies “all had shortcomings that were most often significant,” adding:

“These studies furthermore reported contradictory results for each impact. Some studies, for example, found increases in preterm birth, while others found decreases or no association. As is illustrated by the Community Risk-Benefit Matrix, all impacts had inconsistent findings across the literature for that outcome. Where the results of these studies did not contradict each other, the impact was only analyzed by a single study.”

Though the report does not directly identify exactly which studies it categorized as being “lower quality” — which is defines as having “multiple, serious flaws” that invalidate its conclusions entirely — it is not difficult to glean which studies are considered “lower quality” by RFF, based on the following comments made about the following epidemiological studies EID has debunked.

• Casey et al. (2016). Authored by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, this study, attempted to link fracking to premature births in Pennsylvania. EID pointed out soon after the study was released that its data not only failed to establish such a link, the researchers failed to use available baseline data, take measurements and didn’t factor in genetics and socioeconomic factors. The study also drew sharp criticism from Dr. Tony Cox, a clinical professor of biostatistics and informatics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. RFF notes many of the flaws flagged by Cox and EID in its report:

RFF: “The authors found no correlation of unconventional natural gas activity with Apgar score, SGA or term birth weight. Cox (2016) critiques the study, primarily on the issue of using proxies to estimate exposure (an issue present in most studies). The problem with the methodology of the study is that Casey et al. (2016) have addressed only for mothers in 2010 and 2013 yet analyze 2009 through 2013. Between those two years, almost 80 percent had the same address, with 6 percent moving within 1,500 meters (m) and another 10 percent moving 1,500 m to 16 km from their original addresses. This discrepancy has the potential to introduce some error into the estimates — particularly those from 2009.”

• Jamielita et al. (2015). This University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University study asserts correlation between natural gas development and an increase in hospitalizations based on zip codes in three Pennsylvania counties: Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne. But among a myriad of flaws highlighted by EID — including the fact that the county with the highest number of wells (Bradford) actually had the lowest overall inpatient occurrences, are two reoccurring themes repeatedly flagged by RFF in its report: failure to prove causation and failure to determine other contributing factors.

RFF“This issue with this analysis — simply comparing zip codes with and without wells — is that a number of unobservable differences may bias the results, meaning zip codes that have drilling might be different than zip codes that do not have drilling in a way that affects the prevalence of inpatient cardiology or neurology rates. Additionally, this level of analysis likely is not able to address within-zip code variation in exposure.”

• Hill (2013a, 2013b) Despite the fact that these papers by then-Cornell doctoral candidate Elaine Hill purporting that there is a “causal” relationship between natural gas development and low birth rates, hadn’t (and apparently still haven’t) been subject to peer review, they were used to justify New York’s fracking ban. Outside experts interviewed by the New York Times said the paper was “devoid of meaningful data” and a “badly suspect piece of work,” and the RFF report also noted that criticism:

RFF: “[T]hese working papers have received critical reviews and are not yet published in peer-reviewed journals… The most important is that they relied on the assumption that mothers who live near a permitted well and mothers who live near a drilled or producing well have similar characteristics — that their socioeconomic characteristics, which may also influence birth outcomes, do not change between the time a well is permitted and when that well begins producing… This is an important issue, as mothers who are more well-off may move away from oil and gas development, or mothers who are less well-off may take advantage of decreased home prices.

• McKenzie et al. (2014) This study, which suggests a link between fracking and birth defects, was authored by a team of researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) led by Lisa McKenzie. The researchers were actually disavowedby the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which provided the state birth records used for the paper. It was so poorly researched, and its findings were so alarmist, that the CDPHE demanded the inclusion of a disclaimer in the paper itself: “CDPHE specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.” Considering it is the only birth defects study mentioned in the RFF report, it is clear this study alone led to RFF’s “lower quality” label for such studies, and the report notes further criticism of the 2014 paper:

RFF: “Fedak et al. (2014), in a published critique of the study, also took issue with the study’s hypothesis that benzene is the mechanism through which the defects occur, as the study provides little evidence to support this claim.”

• McKenzie et al. (2017) This study, claiming to find an association between oil and gas development and childhood cancer, was immediately disavowed by the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) for a myriad of reasons, including its small sample size, failure to measure individual exposure and failure to address additional or alternate risk factors. The RFF report kept its criticism of this universally panned study short, but to the point:

RFF: “There are many issues that might bias the results of the study.”

• Rasmussen et al. (2016) This well known study, the second of a series of three Johns Hopkins University study spearheaded by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, claimed to establish a link between proximity to natural gas development and asthma flare-ups. EID exposed several of this study’s flaws, most notably the all-too-common theme of lack of proof of causation and other factors among the population that could contribute to asthma exacerbations. RFF notes the latter flaw in its report:

RFF: “[T]he study, however, did not report the characteristics of populations within each exposure quartile, and it is therefore difficult to assess whether the results are credible.”

• Stacy et al. (2015). This study, which was funded by the anti-fracking Heinz-Endowment and published in a journal that does not require peer-review, claimed to find a link between fracking and low birth weights. The study (as usual) failed to prove causation and included contradictory data. None of the average birthweights found were actually considered “low” by the medical definition of the term, and all regions studied had average birthweights above the national average. Furthermore, the study’s data actually showed that the average birth weight in study area farthest away from shale gas wells was 3,343.9 grams, much lower than those in the second region (3,370.4) and third region (3,345.4), which were closer to shale gas wells. RFF noted the latter in its report:

RFF: “The study did not find any significant effects of well density on premature births, except for a higher average birth weight and a lower share of premature infants born to mothers living in the second exposure quartile — an odd result. The study also uses a 10-mile radius, larger than many other studies for analysis, which makes it difficult to control for variation within that area of interest. This large radius means the results could reflect differences in health outcomes due to socioeconomic status, for example, rather than proximity to natural gas development.”

• Tustin et al. (2017). The third in a series of Johns Hopkins University studies led by a researcher who is a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, this study trumpeted a link between migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms and severe fatigue. But as the RFF report notes, one of its numerous flaws was failing to take into account the myriad of factors that can contribute to these ailments and — once again — failure to even remotely prove causation.

RFF: “Each of these symptoms can be caused by multiple factors, such as stress, sleep deprivation, noise, odors, hormonal issues, toxins, allergens, and more. Though too much weight should not be placed on the results, because of the aforementioned issues with bias in self-reporting symptoms and with exposure proxies, it is suggestive of a relationship between natural gas activity and health effects. Like many of the studies discussed in this section, however, the mechanism for such effects is not able to be ascertained.”

Conclusion

This RFF report confirms the prevailing flaws of fracking health studies EID has been highlighting for years: lack of proof of causation, contradictory findings, faulty methodology and classic “more studies needed” mantra.

And the fact remains that fracking opponents’ preferred scientific study of choice — epidemiological studies — aren’t designed to prove causation in the first place, which means we can expect more of the same going forward, so long as the media continues to give the movement the alarmist headlines it truly desires.

 

 

Private Eye frack themselves – again!

Private Eye  is always a good read, and for decades has cast its pen dipped in hydrofluoric acid on so many issues.  Its comment is always amusing and usually pertinent.

However, when they dabble in fracking they get fracked. Probably the reason is that they look to a persuasive experts, whose credentials are more in bullshit than anything else.

Here is their latest from May 2017. It is all very convincing but Ken’s letter to Private Eye eviscerates it. I will let him speak………..

 

Image may contain: text

 

Ken wrote to Private Eye

I just sent this to Private Eye.

‘Old Sparky’ who writes the ‘Keeping the Lights on’ column has been following the line of BS from the antifrackers. I was a bit surprised by what Old Sparky wrote about shale gas production. He seems to have swallowed some of the fake news from antifrackers.

I write this as I wrote the complaint which challenged the claims of Friends of the Earth last January. FoE were unable to sustain their claims about water pollution, health effects, asthma. See I am a retired, totally independent 12 years experienced oil rig engineer who, like Strobes, dislikes bullshit. The antifracking movement is entirely founded on bullshit.

So the Tories plan to reduce the regulatory hoop jumping? Why should ill informed people be able to pass comment on technical issues that occur underground?There is no evidence that the proposed fracking system will cause any problems, and 1 million wells in the US with not a single proven case of water pollution or health effect should indicate its intrinsic safety. There are however possible pollution paths from surface spills, and the regs in the UK block all of those potential leak paths. They do not need inspection.

Like any other industry, if the regulations say that you have to use a fluid particular system, then thats what you have to use. How many personal inspections does that need? In fact on previous wells there have been drop in visits by the HSE and Environment Agency, though Old Sparky’s ill informed ‘advisers’ will doubtless claim different. (I have never voted Tory BTW and hate Mrs May and Brexit!) Planning docs run to hundreds of pages will all techniques, chemicals etc exposed to public scrutiny. The regulations are here and here All of these would still be required, its just that the years that it takes to drill a perfectly safe well would be bypassed. The wells would still need to follow planning law, and comment on location/truck movements/etc are still in place. The Lancashire vote against permission was taken against legal advice, by councillors who were not competent to pass comment on the technical issues. These issues had already been dealt with by the expert Planning Dept who recommended approval. So the Tories are ‘gung ho’? Why not, for something that could be a massive revenue earner, with minimal intrusion on the beauty of the countryside? (I have visited the proposed Yorkshire frack site, its almost invisible, like the 100 wells in posh Poole Harbour…) Recently protestors tried in Pickering tried to block access to a well, and they couldnt find it! 😅

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An aside from MR; Here’s a well in Lancashire clearly visible from the road

DSCF0639

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Somehow the shale gas debate has been highjacked by fake reports of health impacts, financed by many anti fossil fuel organisations, yet there is not a single lawsuit in the most litigious country in the world. Claims of cancer/asthma are dismissed by experts, and extensive research into water pollution has revealed no cases of pollution but still the antis go on about it. In the UK carcinogens, and toxic chemicals are forbidden by UK and EU law, but that doesnt stop people claiming they will be used. Please feel free to contact me for a more sober view on what all of the expert engineering and geological groups say is a low risk technology. I expect Strobes to be able to get to the truth, rather than the bullshit surrounding these matters. The truth in this case is rather boring. Shale gas is a low risk activity. Ask the Royal Academy of Engineering, or the BGS.

Fake news is nothing new: 6 pseudo-news websites have colored GMO debate for years

Ummmm! Interesting

A review of 6 fake sites on GMO foods. The last two are of interest.

The Ecologist –a long standing eco-magazine which I took in hte 70s and loved. It now publishs OTT stuff on Green issues whether GMO or Fracking

 

RT – Russia Television – a Moscow based disinformation channel which is implacably opposed to fracking, but never deals with pollution caused by petroleum extraction in Russia

 

 

‘Fake news’ may be new to most people, but not to followers of the anti-GMO debate. Here are some of the leading purveyors of misleading information.

Source: Fake news is nothing new: 6 pseudo-news websites have colored GMO debate for years

“Fake news” is now a well-known term, at least to Americans in the wake of the US presidential election. But followers of events in genetic modification of food and crops have been familiar with the “fake news” phenomenon for years. A number of websites have thrived for years, offering misleading stories with alarmist headlines — in opposition to GMO crops and livestock. Some of these sites (they all have a strong, if not exclusive, online presence) focus directly on GMOs, while others provide a forum for selling products, and still others take a broad stroke on a number of environmental and health issues. Here is a selection of these “Fake news” sites.

Natural News

Natural News, renamed from NewsTarget.com in the mid-2000s, is headed by the self-described “Health Ranger” Mike Adams, who has described biotechnology scientists as “the most despicable humanoids to walk the face of this planet.” [Read GLP’s profile of Mike Adams.] The site publishes original articles, while also aggregating the work of others — almost unanimously in opposition to GMOs, vaccines, or anything it considers to be under influence of corporations. It is affiliated with the non-profit organization Consumer Wellness Center, created in 2006 by Adams.

The website promotes natural health and lifestyle products, including this $2,000 “hydrogen infusion machine.” It was dubbed the “worst anti-science website” by science-based Skeptic.

.] In December, 2016, for example, a story headlined “US Court of Appeals: States and counties can ban GMO crops despite federal laws,” claimed the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had passed a law allowing local and state authorities in Hawaii to enact bans on genetically modified crops. In fact, the Ninth Circuit (which under the US Constitution cannot pass laws) did the opposite: it overruled decisions by county and local officials in Hawaii to ban GMO, citing the authority of the state and the US Plant Protection Act.

And in May, 2016, the site published a story claiming: “CRISPR gene editing lies exposed by genomics expert.,” It wrote:

The biotechnology industry is carrying out a concerted public-relations campaign to promote the idea that new, so-called “gene editing” technologies are the more accurate, safer successor to now-defunct traditional genetic engineering (GE). But this campaign is founded upon several straight-up myths about the new technology, which is nothing more than the same reckless GE paradigm under another name.

The expert? Jonathan Latham, editor of another “fake news” site, Independent Science News. In reality traditional genetic engineering is anything but defunct, since 90 percent of all corn and soybean planted in the US is genetically modified, and, in Hawaii, the papaya industry was saved by the introduction of a modified, virus-resistant version of the popular fruit.

Natural News is not exclusively devoted to opposing genetic modification and promoting organic and “natural” products. Adams has promoted such causes as AIDS denialism, 9/11 truther conspiracies, Barack Obama citizenship ‘birther’ claims and is a believer in ‘dangerous’ chemtrails and the ‘danger’ of vaccines.

Mercola.com

The website Mercola.com has been publishing online for more than 20 years. In addition to selling a wide range of “natural” products, books and fitness plans all under the Mercola brand, it also publishes articles favoring organic foods, and opposing genetic modifications.
Mercola is the creation of Joseph Mercola, an Illinois-based doctor of osteopathic medicine, who claims it as “the world’s No. 1 health Website.”

Arguing that traditional medicine (including vaccines, pharmaceuticals and surgery) kills, he offers alternative cures including prescribing “organic, non-commercially harvested” seaweed supplements to treat thyroid problems. Mercola promotes and sells a variety of “alternative” products; for which he has received multiple warning letters from the FDA.

His website offers a steady stream articles opposing (among other things) GMOs, and which offer his natural products as alternatives.

In a recent article arguing against eating soy, Mercola points to the fact that most soy grown in the US is modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate, which, he claimed is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle. The article cites two studies, one in amphibians and the other in hamsters, showing how (in amphibians) a “tiny amount” of glyphosate caused anatomical abnormalities and (in hamsters) infertility in three generations. None of these appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Instead they were published by the Pesticide Action Network and in the Huffington Post. The site also uses anti-gmo stories to help promote a $99.00 glyphosate testing kit.

Independent Science News

This news site was started in 2011, by the Bioscience Resource Project, an organization that says it provides independent research and analysis in the agriculture-related biosciences and has been in existence since 2006. The site is edited by Jonathan Latham, who holds a PhD in virology and has published papers on a wide variety of topics, including genetics.

According to the organization’s website:

Powerful interests routinely succeed in influencing the answers. In science, external forces influence strongly what is studied, what is published, and what is reported. When that happens, individuals (or policymakers) no longer have the information to decide rationally and choose thoughtfully. Society becomes dysfunctional at a fundamental level.

At ISN we chooses (sic) our stories carefully. Most concern simultaneous manipulations of the scientific process, the food/ag system, and the science media.

According to the site, these stories include:

  • “False agribusiness claims about the safety and performance of GMO food and crops
  • Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxins
  • Roundup-Ready to Yield?
  • Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops.

At best, the headlines and stories under them are misleading, at worst, they are simply false.

The website has posted stories arguing there is no scientific consensus on the safety GM foods (there is a consensus, actually), a guest post by well-known GM food opponent Vandana Shiva, and conspiracy theories about genetic testing and population mass surveillance by the government. It also has been linked by anti-technology intellectual Naomi Oreskes, who linked one of her Tweets to the website’s article on Monsanto, a piece by Jonathan Latham speculating that GM food (and therefore Monsanto and others who make them) were in peril because Chipotle had vowed to remove GMO products from its restaurants.

Sustainable Pulse

This website says it is owned and maintained “by a group of concerned citizens and scientists.” While some editors claim it is based in the UK, it is registered in Bulgaria, and two of its chief editors, Henry Rowlands and Radostin Nonkin, work in Bulgaria. In addition to its site, which predominantly features articles about opposition to GMOs, it is connected to what it calls “reference projects:”

  • GMO Evidence—“a simple resource that shows the global picture of harm from GMOs & Roundup.”
  • GMO Seralini—a main source page for all of Gilles-Eric Seralini’s papers and other materials, including his famous 2012 discredited study on tumors in rats that had been retracted, and subsequently republished in a so-called “pay for play” publication.
  • GMO Judy Carman—a similar source page for Australian anti-GMO advocate and researcher, who is best known for her (also discredited, based on questionable methods) 2013 study in the little-known open access Journal of Organic Systems, in which she claimed to have found a link between genetically modified maize and inflammation of the stomach in pigs.

On its main page, one of its most popular posts is a story, “Review Links Roundup to Diabetes, Autism, Infertility and Cancer,” referring to a 2013 paper by anti-GMO advocates Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel. No link between glyphosate and these diseases by any reputable scientific lab has ever been found.

In a lead story, Sustainable Pulse quoted “experts” from the anti-GMO activist community, such as GM Watch and GM Freeze, on their opposition to testing by Rothamsted Research on a type of wheat engineered to more efficiently use photosynthesis to increase crop yields. While the group also quoted the head of the Rothamsted project, quotes from the anti group questioned whether farmers needed to grow more wheat:

What is the purpose of growing more wheat in the first place? World food production already far exceeds the needs of generations to come but people still go hungry. Nobody is starving because of some fundamental flaw with photosynthesis; they are starving because they are poor.

Which is half right.

The Ecologist

“Setting the environmental agenda since 1970,” according to the news site’s masthead, the organization was established as a journal in London, publishing scientific papers that were, according to the papers’ authors, too radical for other journals and magazines. It published in print until 2009, when it became an online magazine and stopped publishing academic-type papers.

Taking a clear anti-globalization, pro-local effort stance on issues, it has posted stories pertaining to climate change, the oil industry, nuclear power, animal rights, and genetically modified foods. Jonathan Latham is frequently posted on the site, including this story accusing the Cornell University Alliance for Science for “being chicken,” in allegedly turning down a debate with anti-GMO activists. It turns out that the “invitation” was tucked into a dense comment section on social media. It also has been running stories critical of policies of the new UK government in the wake of the nation’s vote to withdraw from the European Union. The site also posts screeds from Carey Gillam, a former Reuters reporter who left the news agency for US Right to Know, and whose work is reliably anti-GMO.

The Ecologist’s editors and writers often produce pieces that look well-researched, but the conclusions invariably fall in line with their anti-GMO, technology-skeptic editorial trends. In February, a large piece on the Zika virus in Brazil and other parts of South America cited several studies discussing the possibility that a pesticide, or a previous genetically modified virus, was responsible for the microcephaly cases seen early last year. While the story was updated extensively and even refuted some of its earlier claims of “jumping DNA” and inserted transposons, it still concluded that any future release of genetically modified insects (such as the Oxitec modified mosquito):

Were to take place, it could give rise to numerous new mutations of the virus with the potential to cause even more damage to the human genome, that we can, at this stage, only guess at

Russia Today (RT)

Russia Today, or RT as it now known–its pedigree is Pravda, the propaganda organ of the Communist Party–made a headlines in January when a US intelligence report pointed to it as a major propaganda instrument used in attempts to influence the US presidential election. The television network and website (which have US versions) follow a pattern familiar to followers of Russia and the former Soviet Union—a state-run news agency that claims to be independent but generally hews to Russian policies and authorities..

It is often accused to spreading propaganda and violating journalistic traditions of impartiality. In the United Kingdom, the media regulator Ofcom repeatedly found RT breached rules on impartiality, and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.

RT reports on a wide range of global issues, much like Reuters, the BBC, AFP or CNN. On GMOs, RT is solidly critical, as is the Russian government, which recently enacted a ban on any foreign GMO from entering the country, and outlawed the creation of a commercial GMO product.

Some stories, including this one on FDA approval of the Simplot potato last year that has a Reuters copyright on it, appear to be straight news, but emphasize comments from anti-GMO activists. The Reuters story heavily quotes Jeffrey Smith, founder of the anti-GMO organization Institute for Responsible Technology:

“It makes sense on paper,” he said of the potatoes that are purported to be resistant to blight – the pathogen responsible for the Great Famine. However, one of the issues is that the effects of modified these genomes are largely unknown.

“When we tamper with the genome in the way that they’ve been doing with genetic engineering in our food supply, you end up increasing allergens, toxins, new diseases or other problems – causes massive collateral damage in the DNA” he said.

This quote, of course, ignores the extensive testing by developers of the potato, reviews by FDA officials, and the advances in knowledge of genetics in general.

A video on RT spends more than six minutes opining on a number of issues, from the so-called “DARK Act,” to alleged “wheat escape” and perpetuates many of the typical myths that are refrains of the anti-GMO movement, such as whether QR codes really work, and the false story of the “world killing” Klebsiella microbe that was modified to increase alcohol production and boost decomposition.

Andrew Porterfield is a writer, editor and communications consultant for academic institutions, companies and non-profits in the life sciences. He is based in Camarillo, California. Follow @AMPorterfield on Twitter.