Biotechnology

The New Yorker Rebuts Bioluddite Disinformationist Vandana Shiva

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Vandana Shiva
wikimedia

Back in August, The New Yorker ran a terrific profile of the evil anti-biotech charlatan Vandana Shiva that nicely revealed, well, her evilness to the world. Incensed that her fables were questioned, Shiva attacked using the characteristic techniques of the Big Lie, implications of racism, misdirection, and more made up data. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, has now replied. Remnick's letter was reproduced at the Genetic Literacy Project. Selections are below:

This is in reply to the letter you sent and subsequently posted on the Internet earlier this week. It is not for publication in any way or on your website, but I thought you were asking for a serious reply. So here it is: I should say that since you have said that the entire scientific establishment has been bought and paid for by Monsanto, I fear it will be difficult to converse meaningfully about your accusation that the story contained "fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality." But maybe I am wrong; I'll try. …

One hardly needs to hold a Ph.D. in physics to become an effective environmental activist, as you have demonstrated. Yet, when a prominent figure, such as yourself, is described for decades—in interviews, on web sites, in award citations, and on many of your own book jackets, as having been "one of India's leading physicists" it seems fair to ask whether or not you ever worked as one. …

Your math and conclusions on the issues of farmer suicides and seed prices and values differ from the math in studies carried out by many independent, international and government organizations.  Mr. Specter is far from alone in rejecting, based on data, your charge that Monsanto is responsible for "genocide" in India. In your letter you state that "Specter promotes a system of agriculture that fails to deliver on its promises of higher yield and lower costs and propagates exploitation." This has always been your position, but as Mr. Specter pointed out in his article, there have been many studies on the effects of planting BT cotton in India, and on the whole, scientists – none of whom were connected to Monsanto –have found the opposite to be true. …

One of the best recent studies on the economic impact of Bt cotton on farmers found that "Bt has caused a 24% increase in cotton yield per acre through reduced pest damage and a 50% gain in cotton profit among smallholders. These benefits are stable; there are even indications that they have increased over time." The researchers also show that Bt cotton adoption has raised consumption expenditures, a common measure of household living standard, by 18% during the 2006–2008 period and conclude that Bt cotton has created large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India.

The whole reply is worth reading.

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  1. Trigger warning: Bailey enjoys wearing clothing made from BT cotton.

    1. I thought Ron Bailey only wore leather thongs.

      1. I’d have believed you if you had said penis sheath.

  2. “Look out! The sniper’s got a bead on you!”

  3. An article about Vandana Shiva, Mr. Bailey? Are you subbing for Shikha Dalmia?

    1. Speaking of Dalmia, Swiss, did you catch this little gem over the weekend?

      And thanks to the backlogged green card situation, immigrants who would otherwise be attractive human fodder for the military, are unable to enlist.

  4. Looks like they got her on every one of her lies; she deserves it.

  5. Looks like Cartman.

  6. I have a deep dislike for David Remick that is hard to overcome.

    That said, he at least defends his writers work here, as he should. i know of other cases where he’s thrown people under the bus when convenient.

    I think the whole ‘treat charlatans with respect’ rhetoric needs to go. Rather than be “dismayed and distressed” by Shiva, Remnick (or someone) should simply state in completely unqualified language:

    “You are a liar, and a demagogue; your claims consistently run afoul of easily demonstrated facts; your accusations of racism, and calls for persecution of scientists are abhorrent; you have no credibility and your movement is nothing but a cult; the lives of millions in the developing world are worsened by your anti-scientific crusade “

    something like that. Because this pussy-footing stuff? Has no impact with the hordes of believers.

    1. Well, to be honest, nothing except abject surrender would have any impact with true believers.

      1. If you believe there’s any grey area in between ‘true believers’ and ‘skeptics’, then it matters.

        because there are millions of people who aren’t by any means ‘hardcore activists’, but still tend to buy into popular notions of ‘environmental themes’ because they feel good. If a liberal publication like the NY’r bodyslammed this woman, it would echo though the cocktail parties of the upper west side, and – god willing – actually have the effect of making this ‘warm and fuzzy bullshit’ less popular with the yuppies.

        1. Eh? I was responding to the comment “Because this pussy-footing stuff? Has no impact with the hordes of believers.”

          I was not responding to to the idea that there are no in-betweeners.

          Chill out, dood.

        2. Right, I mean, just the other day, C-SPAN of all places was broadcasting a panel discussion featuring a raving anti-GMO activist.

          These people should NOT be invited to intellectual panel discussions. Least of all on high-brow outlets like C-SPAN. That only makes them seem more credible.
          They should be forced to peddle their bullshit on fringe websites. Nobody should give them a a respectable forum to publish it in.

    2. Exactly. We let things go too far out of politeness. The anti-GMO demagogues need to be thoroughly exiled from intellectual society. They need to be delegitimized and cast onto the same heap as holocaust deniers.

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