CSI Miami Science Fiction—FrankenFood Disinformation

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CSI Miami

I confess to being a CSI police procedural junkie. Fortunately for the physical integrity of my television set, I missed the completely idiotic episode last week.  In "Bad Seed," the always stylishly dressed and ever intrepid Miami team of CSIs fingered an evil food and farming CEO for poisoning a customer. The victim ate an ear of genetically modified corn containing a botulism gene. Utter claptrap!

In the CSI plot, the deadly gene was supposed to have accidentally gotten into the corn. Apparently, greedy and incompetent breeders somehow overlooked the fact that they had mixed up genes from one bacteria that aimed to make the corn more digestible with other genes from bacteria that produce the botulinum toxin. Biotech crop developers use very precise techniques to install specific beneficial genes in their genetically enhanced varieties. Then breeders test the hell out of them to see if anything unexpected occurs. Only then do the new improved varieties get released to farmers for planting.

As far as I can tell, there is currently only one variety of biotech sweet corn (corn on the cob) commercially available in the United States. Developed by Syngenta, Attribute sweet corn contains an added gene that kills some insects that try to eat it. The gene comes from bacillus thuringiensis. Please note that b.t. is also extensively used by organic farmes to control pests.

The chief villain in the episode is CEO of Bixton Organic Foods, Jerry Mackey. Now why would the CSI screenwriters pick a character name very similar to that of John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods? Perhaps because John Mackey is being slagged by the brain-dead left for his recent opposition to the Obama administration's version of health care reform? Nah. It's probably just a coincidence. And never mind the deep plot confusion over the fact that the CEO of an organic farming company would not be growing biotech crops anyway. The organic movement got biotech crops banned from the USDA's organic standards years ago.

Look, part of what attracts me to the CSI shows is that they make science look cool (the clothes, the cars, the centrifuges). And I undertand that taking creative liberties is essential to producing compelling entertainment, but….  I once complained to author Michael Crichton that his novels were abetting cultural technophobia that could end up unnecessarily slowing the development of vital new technologies. I think that this CSI fable is guilty of the same intellectual crime.

Big sweeping hat tip to Tim Burrack over at The Truth About Trade and Technology blog.

NEXT: Self-Governance Works

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  1. Look, part of what attracts me to the CSI shows is that they make science look cool (the clothes, the cars, the centrifuges).

    I likes the intro and outro

  2. Developed by Syngenta, Attribute sweet corn contains an added gene that kills some insects that try to eat it.

    Does it make better whiskey too?

    The chief villain in the episode is CEO of Bixton Organic Foods, Jerry Mackey. Now why would the CSI screenwriters pick a character name very similar to that of John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods? Perhaps because John Mackey is being slagged by the brain-dead left for his recent opposition to the Obama administration’s version of health care reform? Nah, It’s probably just a coincidence.

    I ran into that with my books. I thought this character name, also my pen name, was unique. Didn’t google enough to find out there is a military author with this as his given name. But I am going along with your suspicion on this one in the TV show.

  3. the completely idiotic episode last week

    That could be said about any attempt by TV to dramatize the legal system, medicine, science, etc. etc.

  4. I confess to being a CSI police procedural junkie.

    And now you’re dead to me, Ron. If you can watch Caruso chew the scenery for more than 5 minutes you either have a stomach of iron or the taste of Michael Bay.

    1. I’m in total agreement. I read “I confess to being a CSI police procedural junkie” as being the most fantastic part of the entire post…

      1. Hard-core insomniac with two Tivos… and I still don’t watch CSI: Miami.

        First Bob Evans and now this? So much for the “Oh noes! Cosmotarians!” hand-wringing.

        1. Same here, except for the insomniac part.

          Nor have I watched any of the iterations of Law & Order, NCIS or any other of the current crop of multi-version cop shows.

          I started boycotting cop shows after they took Cop Rock off the air.

      2. According to my wife, when it comes to my efforts to prevent her from watching CSI shows, I ape the totalitarians with all of the reasons why I claim it is bad for her to waste her time with such drivel. Obviously, we disagree about the drivel part.

        Fortunately, she is almost as big a sports fan as I am. She would rather watch MNF than CSI Miami.

        1. NCIS is just as bad. Especially that old woman they try to pass off as a gothic Lolita.

          1. Forty ain’t that old.

            1. It is if your shtick is dressing like a depressed teenager.

              1. But she’s so caffeinated, NutraSweet! That’s like, young and shit! And tattoos! TATTOOS, dude!

          2. The hotties are on Criminal Minds.

              1. Dear god, that looks uncomfortable. Not everyone’s thighs are meant for public exposure, but no one’s thighs are meant to be connected from groin to knee in one contiguous mass.

                1. Go back one picture on that link and see who she’s bearding for so unconvincingly.

                  1. I love the fags- they probably provide some of the only positive male attention that chubby girls get. Until they meet Warty, that is.

          3. She appears to be the real thing:

            From IMDB: Pauley Perrette was born in New Orleans and moved several times as a child due to her father’s job. She graduated college with Honours – receiving her Master’s Degree in Criminology. She also studied Sociology and Psychology. She was – and still is – completely obsessed with the study of Forensic Science.

  5. Let me summarize CSI for you with this link.

    (Link courtesy of Ellie.)

    1. Dammit. What’s the syntax for links in the (ahem) improved comment system?

      Here’s the address I tried to link above:
      http://www.makemymood.com/2009…..oom-story/

      1. I thought the failed link was just a metaphor for the show.

    2. You SugarFree’d the link.

      1. That’s “you The SugarFree’d the link”

  6. The Law & Order season premiere actually handled the politics and the law of the torture debate, IMO, perfectly. I saw no flaws.

    1. Where have you been?

      I think you are right. I used to be a much bigger fan of the show. IMO, the writing quality has gone down hill the last several years. But, the opening episode was, in my view, a dramatic improvement.

      Did you know that Michael Moriarity (Ben Stone) is a libertarian?

      1. Did you know that Michael Moriarity (Ben Stone) is a libertarian?

        And a drunk?

  7. I guess his corn…
    (slips on horribly dated sunglasses)
    …got creamed.

    1. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

    2. I am now cleaning my monitor. Thank you for that.

    3. This is what Win is made of.

  8. Come on, Ron. Everyone knows CSI:Miami is thr red-headed character actor of the forensics genre and should never be watched.

  9. David Caruso is so great. He’s a red-headed Pinnochio. One day he’ll get to be a real boy.

    1. If you like him there you will love him in old reruns of Hill Street Blues as a gang leader.

      1. Or as the small town cop that gets knifed in the woods by Rambo in First Blood.

        1. Forgot about that one! LOL, t/y.

        2. Gault, you guys were kinda hard on him back at the station…

          1. what, no love for king of new york?

  10. I had to quit after they started adding all of those multi-panel screen effects. I guess I had enough of Caruso’s overemphasis, too. Does he think people will confuse him with William Shatner? And what the hell are CSI techs doing chasing criminals and taking point on weapons-drawn entries?

    When Lenny Briscoe was still on L&O, he had a great line about it, something like, “That’s the problem with crime scene technicians today: They think they’re cops!”

  11. CSI: Miami is great for getting drunk. Just play a drinking game where you drink a shot whenever David Caruso takes off or puts on his sunglasses, and chase it with a beer whenever that black forensic chick bends to reveal her cleavage all the way down to her pants.

  12. Hollywood has been attacking businessmen for at least a half century. Capitalism and capitalists are their favorite whipping boys. That this particular capitalist grows corn is but another variant on the hackneyed, despicable theme.

    1. I think the reason for this has less to do with rampant socialism in Hollywood (though there is plenty of that, usually the “romantic utopian” kind) and more to do with the fact that stories with a person overcoming the odds sell, and so a person overcoming a wealthy businessperson sell.

      1. People like to be told that all the problems in their life are someone else’s fault. That’s all there is to it.

        I’d actually like to eat some organically-grown GM food, but unless you count the selective breeding of food over thousands of years, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Damn greens!

  13. I’ve played that game, Jozef. Most people have alcohol poisoning inside of 20 minutes.

  14. Have to be a stickler, but it’s Bacillus thuringiensis (or non-italicized, but underlined).

    The description of the episode shows the sloppy science. If they wanted to be somewhat plausible, they could have used Bacillus anthracis, instead of Clostridium botulinum, which isn’t even the same genus of bacterium as B. thuringiensis.

    Also, the Bt toxin is a crystalline toxin, which is visible with basic microbiological analysis, unlike botulinum.

    As a microbiologist, I cringe at such shows, because of all the bullshit that they pass off as “science”. Just the fact that the labs on such shows are patently absurd in comparison to the real world, state forensic labs, which are understaffed, underpaid and overworked.

    Nothing beats the stupidity of seeing a blood sample placed on a microscope slide, inserted into a machine and a near instantaneous DNA analysis appears with a picture of the person next to the result.

    1. Welcome to the club.

      I am a computer programmer and because of that I have umpteen relatives bugging me all the time to help them enhance their digital pics just like they see on TV.

      You know the scene. The cops have a black and white image from a cctv in a dark parking lot. The tech then begins a process of dragging an outline over a section of the pic and clicking the Enhance button. Instantaneously (so fast it makes your DNA analysis look like it was run by the DMV) the image zooms in and gets clearer.

      After about six application of this the cop can see that the victims watch clearly shows a time of 8:42 which solves the case.

      So, getting back to my point, I have to explain time and time again that if the original picture was taken on their 1MB camera, there isn’t any way to “enhance” it to the point where they can make out the words on the tattoo of the guy they hooked up with at the Monster Truck show.

      1. Dude, you missed the link above.

        1. The sound you just heard was the gnashing of teeth of a million Ohio natives whenever they see that ‘first in flight’ logo.

        2. I did. I admit it.

          But that is exactly how my relatives think it works.

          And the site left out the important step of dragging a little rectangle around the portion of the pic that needs to be enhanced. Very important step.

      2. Didn’t Roger Ebert write a book about that stuff? Saw something online with lots of examples too, right after Armegadon came out. Stuff like stuff never explodes just once in a movie, no piece of cloth is the right size for a bandage, etc.

        “Override” is the keyboard command to get into everything.

        There is no limit to zoom capability.

        Something that came close to acceptable was in Speed 2, maybe? the “now” command was used, but not in a realistic way. But all sorts of systems use “now” to return the current system DTG. Wasn’t it @now in Lotus 1,2,3 or am I misplacing that?

        1. Score for the Lotus reference! I just had a flashback to the days I spent programming Lotus Notes databases.

          My favorite line is from Jurassic Park was:
          Lex: It’s a UNIX system! I know this!

          You do have to feel bad for the writers trying to write computer scenes though. Most technical stuff is esoteric and tough to sell to a lay audience. You have to have all sorts of stupid rules like: you cannot simply type commands in, you must read aloud as you go.

          Anyone know if the physics jargon on Big Bang Theory is coherent or just mumble jumble.

          1. They have a physics prof as a consultant, and many amused scientists as fans, so it seems like the jargon is real. The few parts I understand sound real.

        2. “Didn’t Roger Ebert write a book about that stuff?”

          Indeed: “Ebert’s “Bigger” Little Movie Glossary”

  15. OMG U EATED A GENE

    1. hahahahahahahaha that sums up the “Frankenfoods” crowd beautifully.

  16. Only reason to watch is to see all the women half-falling out of their tops.
    Guys, when you reach a certain age, that’s quite a thrill. The real stuff could give you a heart attack!

  17. I think you really need to talk to Balko about the whole CSI thing, Ron.

    I know you’re the science guy and CSI can be interpreted as pro-science, but I think Radley is pretty dead-on when he calls police forensic work a pseudoscience.

    Radley makes a compelling case that most so-called forensic work is actually improvised, untested claptrap designed less to uncover truth than to manufacture plausible-sounding evidence for prosecutors.

    1. I was at a CLE program a few months ago where an academic scientist (i.e., a real scientist) who specializes in forensics went off on this very subject for over an hour. It was awesome.

      1. It was this guy: Jay Siegel.

    2. And just like good anti-capitalists, the writers have no clue that private biotech companies are required to have reams of Quality Controls and process/method validations, which I am learning is not the case for Forensic Science.

      Not claiming that such QC programs can’t be skirted or ignored, but in such shows the CSI lab is presented to be the “gold standard” of science and never produces shoddy work. That’s reserved for the ‘greedy’ businessman.

  18. I just keep wondering what kind of forensics lab operates in the dark?! Did they forget to pay the electric bill or what? Maybe the CSI unit is more conerned about being green instead of “where in the hell did I put that sample?!”

    1. House is just as bad. The lab is darker than a home theater.

      1. The problem is how can you capture the high-techiness without glowy equipment thingies. You need dark to accomplish that.

        1. I’m a fan of dimmed lights as well. But if you can’t read a paperback, turn on some damn lights. This ain’t Frances Dolarhyde’s office, yo.

          How about we compromise and paint all the high-tech stuff with radium.

          1. Maybe you should take a cinematography course. Don’t you know shit can’t look cool unless it’s massively overlit and then filtered all to hell? Watch a fucking music video and learn true art, you schmuck.

            1. Is another coolness technique to have the camerman wobble the camera around like he’s drunk? I haven’t watched this stuff in a while.

    2. Dude, how else are you going to maintain an aura of mystery and suspense?

      1. Oh yeah… I guess plot would be asking far too much from Hollywood.

  19. Not exactly on topic, but Lenny Briscoe era L&O is one of my favorite things. Perfect mix of good writing and ridiculousness. I plan on playing it at my funeral.

    McCoy’s a bastard, but I love him too.

    1. Ben Stone was just as bad if not worse. Their self righteous attitudes do get old but the best part of L&O is they don’t always win.

      Objection! Cousel is preaching authoritarian BS on TV.

  20. Developed by Syngenta, Attribute sweet corn contains an added gene that kills some insects that try to eat it. The gene comes from bacillus thuringiensis. Please note that b.t. is also extensively used by organic farmes to control pests.

    I caught a little bit of an NPR show last night where they talked about how Monsanto developed a potato with BT that cut way down on the need to apply pesticides. McDonalds and others were buying it, until the usual retards started yammering on about frankenfoods.

    That potato is now gone. Tons of pesticides are being applied instead. The frankenfood morons continue on their oblivious way.

    1. I’d be willing to bet that those same retards wouldn’t be caught dead actually eating anything from McDonald’s, so their yammering is 100% purely for the sake of telling other people what to do. Not that this is any surprise.

    2. On the other hand RC, I have reason to doubt your story, because if it was on NPR my wife would have spent 20 minutes giving me a “summary”.

    3. File next to Irradiation, Food.

      1. Strangely, my wife asked me about irradiated food the other day and I went off on a twenty minute rant about how Luddites, technophobes, and watermelons had destroyed the possibility of something that was proven to be beneficial. Turns out some of the organic biologically appropriate dog food she buys is irradiated.

    4. My bad. Not NPR, because it was on TV. PBS.

  21. In the CSI plot, the deadly gene was supposed to have accidentally gotten into the corn. Apparently, greedy and incompetent breeders somehow overlooked the fact that they had mixed up genes from one bacteria that aimed to make the corn more digestible with other genes from bacteria that produce the botulinum toxin.

    This is utterly impossible. The only way to know a gene has gotten inserted sucessfully is to grow it, and then test the adult plant. You can’t “accidentally” put the wrong gene in. You would discover it the first time you tested the first plant. You then have to reproduce the plant over a few generations to produce enough seed corn to market it. Meanwhile, you feed some to animals. Suggesting that somehow nobody is going to notice the fact that it causes botulism over all that time is a bit like saying that you could raise a child to the age of 30 without noticing that he has no arms or legs.

    1. But the evil corporate titans don’t care about that. They only care about profits.

      1. You mean the evil corporate titans producing CSI, right?

      2. Because nothing is better for profits than killing you customers.

        1. A lesson learned well by every environmentalist gang out there.

  22. Actually, Caruso can actually act if the director has him on a leash so tight it’s basically choking him. He was actually good in Session 9. But you give him some breathing space and out comes David Corelli.

  23. My bad. Not NPR, because it was on TV. PBS.

    Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire.

    I must confess to really enjoying the part about marijuana’s symbiotic relationship with mankind.

    1. That’s it!

      The woman from the Union of Concerned Scientists saying that consumers should reject GM foods because the genetic engineering did nothing for consumers, but was just to benefit the farmers, made me want to dig out my steel-toed boots for a good old-fashioned taint-kicking.

  24. aleash so tight it’s basically choking him

    Your fetish for the detestable gingers combined with your BDSM thing is taking you to strange, scary places, Epi.

  25. What is Caruso’s worse performance?

    Post NYPD Blue, Kiss of Death and Jade really wrestle for the top prize.

    1. His best was in Mad Dog and Glory.

    2. Personally, Caruso’s best performance was in Hudson Hawk.

  26. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

  27. according to my brother a genetic engineer at cal gene the assertions in this article are as questionable as those in the CSI episode in question. frankenfacts are frankenfacts no matter how you spin it

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