Should scientists be allowed free speech?
A conversation about whether scientists should be allowed to speak freely about science. Opinions differ. My apologies for the length, I didn't want to leave anything out or have anyone think they'd been misrepresented.
- In the beginning, Michael Pollan said:
- I checked out the documentary website since I am completely in support of seed diversity and the right of farmers to use any seed they choose (provided the seed isn't currently protected under intellectual property law). It looks pretty interesting, with a list of participants that mostly makes sense, from organizations that have expertise in seed saving, heirloom seeds, etc.But they also included Jeffery Smith. He may be a well known anti GMO campaigner but as far as I know he does not have any expertise on seed saving. To me, including him indicates that the movie has an anti GMO agenda rather than being pro seed saving. I'll still watch the movie if it is free, because perhaps it will include some interesting information, but I will be skeptical. So I replied:
- That might have been a little too blunt - I could have said something like "Jeffery Smith isn't an expert in seed saving, so why was he included" but I admit I was a little frustrated that the documentarians potentially blew their chance to make a strong case for seed saving that everyone could support, seemingly in favor of getting some anti GMO shots in. I included Seed Untold Story in the off chance that they'd reply.Then the weirdness started. Dave Murphy, Founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!, started with some accusations. He also decided to loop in the official USDA account. Maybe it's just me but I can't help but think his intentions were to get me in trouble.
- I'm not sure why Dave would think I was speaking for the USDA, since my Twitter profile (and every other social media profile that I have) has a clear disclaimer. So I just pointed out my disclaimer and clarified I wasn't attacking Jeffery Smith.
- But saying "Thanks!" apparently didn't agree with Dave.
- I decided to ignore his insult and move forward.
- I went back and read Dave's profile on twitter and noticed he wants to create "a sustainable future through positive food and farm policies" (emphasis mine). Surely then he'd be interested in being positive, right? I am also interested in a sustainable future through positive food and farm policies.
- Karl (my co-director at Biology Fortified, Inc., a small non-profit devoted to providing factual information about agriculture) tried to get Dave interested in an interview on the Biofortified Blog, so Dave could have his say to a wider audience.
- These attempts at being cordial were ignored. Dave pressed on about my tweet about Jeffery. Karl has a stronger opinion about Jeffery, and clarified that I do have expertise relevant to this subject.
- At this point, I thought the conversation was over. But then Dave came back days later with comments that seemed intended to publicly shame me into silence and to get me in trouble with my employer. Some of Dave's followers RTed his claims about me without context, which I can only guess was also his intent - to discredit me. Perhaps I am misinterpreting this, but others on Twitter agreed with my evaluation of Dave's tweets.I also find it strange that Dave is hurt by my comment about Jeffery. Are Dave and Jeffery the same person? I don't think so, but stranger things have happened.
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